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Cary Brothers



Let's get one thing straight - Cary Brothers is just one dude and not a member of "The Cary Brothers's Band." Even in the wake of the success of 'Blue Eyes' (on the Grammy-winning Garden State soundtrack) and multiple song placements on popular TV shows (e.g., Grey's Anatomy, Scrubs), people are still a bit confused. With the release of his first full-length CD, Who You Are, this problem should soon disappear. While in Chicago, Brothers sat down with us to discuss his new songs, his independent spirit, and what a few hours hanging from a helicopter can do for your CD cover art.



Way Cool: 

When we first interviewed you, you said you hoped to have a CD out in the summer of 2005.  So, the question is, what has taken you so long?



I’ve been on the road.  I’d go out on the road and then go home and try to make a record.  But I’d run out of money and time, so I’d have to sell a song to a TV show or something to make more money to pay for the next tour so I’d have money to record another song.  It was just a continuous process until this deal stuff. 

photo: Michael Muller



How many songs do you think you’ve written during this time that you’ve been on the road?



Maybe 10 or so.  I’ve probably written pieces of about 20, but they aren’t full songs as of yet.  Again, it’s a time factor.  There are a lot of things floating out there.  I realized, at one point, what this record (Who You Are) was going to be.  I stopped finishing songs so that I could finish this record and get it out of the way.  Now I can start writing new songs again while I’m touring behind this one. 




Talk about the difference between Who You Are and your previous EPs.



I feel that the new CD is a little more space-rocky.  Playing at the Hotel Café in L.A. for awhile forced me to be “acoustic guitar guy” and it forced me to write songs for the acoustic guitar.  With this record, I’ve finally been able to create the songs I’ve been wanting to create.  I’ve been able to use the space and the guitar and write each part to every song.  Before, I’d go out on the road and I’d have 5 days for the band to rehearse and I’d say, “Hey, let’s figure out these parts.”  With these songs, I finally had the time to write each note.



Is the end result what you envisioned it being?



Yes, it is exactly what I wanted.  This is the CD I’ve been waiting to make for 5 years.  From beginning to end, it’s not one sound.  There’s an epic delayed guitar, which is my U2 love.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s not my fault that U2 is still around and making music.  They could have quit long ago and made room for other people.  I thought of delay subtle in 1986 so I have every right to use that (technique) as The Edge does, but unfortunately they keep making hits. 

But, this CD arcs the way I want it to.  The EPs were kind of all over the place.  The first EP was what I wanted it to be.  The second was a piece of a record that I didn’t finish.  Now I feel that I’ve been able to grow over the past couple of years on the road, figure out where my voice was and how to make it stronger, and then focus on some songs that I had written over the past year.  I knew what I wanted this to sound like; I just didn’t know how to do it.  So, we tried a lot of things.  In the end, this CD is like a pie and each song is a piece and now it’s done and I can move on.  I can die in a fiery car wreck tomorrow and die really happy.



Some of those pieces of the pie are old.  How did you decide to incorporate those older songs?




Some of the songs came and went.  There was a time when ‘Think Awhile’ wasn’t going to be on it.  And I think that song actually made it because of (Josh) Radin.  He was listening to some of the songs and heard it and said that I had to put it on there for him.  I had about 16 songs and kept pulling songs off and putting songs in until I came up the right combination.  There are songs like ‘Precious Lie’ and ‘Think Awhile’ that I love, but never played live, so I never saw the reaction to them, so I didn’t know what to expect.  Whereas, with the other songs, I’d played them and knew how people reacted.  To me, the record had to work as a whole.  That’s why ‘California Bound’ didn’t make the cut.  I love that song, but it didn’t make sense; it took the record in a different direction that I didn’t want it to go in.  I just couldn’t make it fit.  Something will happen with that song eventually. 

I’ve been writing pieces of these songs for 15 years.  Different pieces of different songs sometimes combine to become a completely new song.  That’s what happened with ‘Who You Are.’  It started off as a song about a crazy girl who I was dating and song about a girl I loved.  When I put these pieces together, I realized it was really a song about being in love with someone who is crazy.  “You may be nuts, but I don’t care.  I’m going for it!”  The original song wasn’t hopeful enough, musically and melodically.  I didn’t want to write another sad song!




You’ve commented on the fact that you write songs when you’re sad or depressed or ending a relationship.  Knowing that, how do you write happy songs?




I don’t know that I ever sit down and intentionally write a happy song.  But I’ve gotten to the point where I just like writing so much that I don’t need to be depressed anymore.  I don’t need to be that lonely, sad, motherfucker sitting at home alone contemplating my destructive life.  I’ve let that go.  There will always be a part of me that writes songs that way, but I’ve realized how to write a song in any state now.  It makes writing songs a lot easier.

There are songs that I started in one state of mind, but finished in another. Some of these I started writing about a person and then I went through some changes and went back and picked up the songs again, wanting to finish them.  So, they became about somebody else.  But when it’s all done, it’s really about me. 




Talk to us about having Matt Hales (Aqualung) on the album. 




When I was on tour with him, I was playing ‘Honestly’ at every show.  One night he walked up to me and said, “Brothers, I wrote this part.  Can I play it?  I mean, I’ll probably totally fuck your song up, but can I try?”  He came up and laid down an absolutely beautiful piano part and did it for the rest of the tour.  Now when we’re in the same town and I’m playing a show, he’ll come up and play that. 

So, for the record, I just sent him the track, and he recorded the piano part.  It was the same way with Oliver Kraus.  I sent him the tracks and he added the strings from his apartment in London.  I played with both of them live so much that they each knew exactly what I wanted.  I like developing the songs live like that. 





How did you come up with the idea for the cover of the CD?




All of the art on my first CD I did with my digital camera before it was even done.  That’s why I called it All The Rage because I thought I was going to have time to record ‘All The Rage.’  I didn’t, but I had already sent off all the artwork to be pressed.  The second EP, I did the artwork in a hotel room in Philly.  I knew the Hotel Café tour was getting ready to start and I wanted to have a new CD, so I took a bunch of Polaroids of the television while I was changing the channels and scanned them.  I think the cover of Waiting For Your Letter was an up close picture of an E! News special. 

For this, I really wanted to design the art again, but I was mixing and mastering the record and I had a deadline for the artwork.  I listened to the CD from beginning to end while I was driving around on the freeway and realized that it was night music.  To me, it was night driving or hooking up with someone that first time.  So I called my friend, Michael Muller, who shot a bunch of my stuff.  I told him that I wanted the cover to be night and have streaks of light and for it to be urban.  He said, “Get me a helicopter.”  Three days later, we were over the city with him strapped in and hanging out the door 8,000 feet up.  He’s amazing.  Every other shot he took was a potential cover.






Labels have been courting you for a few years now.  How did you avoid signing for so long and what was it about bluhammock that changed your mind?




Once Garden State happened, they descended.  I was the only person on that soundtrack without a label, so they came after me.  They were looking for “The Cary Brothers” who sang gentle, soft acoustic ballads, and I’m neither of those things.  I can do that kind of song, but I felt that everyone wanted a record of ‘Blue Eyes’ and I didn’t want to do that.  I thought there was more to me than that; more than just a voice a guitar.  I didn’t want a deal that forced me to be that guy. 

Instead, I did things that were so different from ‘Blue Eyes.’ Then the labels started backing away because they thought of me as one thing and then I did something different and they didn’t know how to market me.  Basically, in their minds, they were looking for an 18-year-old kid whom they could mold into whatever they wanted and I wasn’t interested in doing that. 

So, I started a label out of my home and knew I needed to get back on the road.  I had a lot of growth to do and knew it would come from being on tour.  Basically, I’ve been on the road for a two and a half years and everything got better as a result.  It finally got to the point where I was just as comfortable with the live show as I was in the studio.  I could have done a deal before that, but it would have failed because I just wasn’t ready. 




It had to be hard to resist that temptation.


True, but while others were saying “Labels, labels, labels!” I was saying “Music supervisors.”  I knew that if I licensed a song to a show, it would fund a tour or a partial piece of a record.  I’d spend that money and license another song.  I made a lot of money over the past couple of years, but put every penny back into my career.  It was tough sometimes seeing my bank account go back to zero, but it gave me total control when things came back around last year.  People realized I wasn’t going anywhere and that my music was getting out there. 

In the meantime, I had seen friends of mine go through really shitty record deals.  One day they would be signed and I was envious.  A year and a half later, they’d come to me and tell me how much they’d love to be in my position because they are now “used goods” in the eyes of a label.  They’d just get screwed and I never wanted to sign my life away.

I didn’t have to do this deal with bluhammock.  But, I realized it was time in terms of marketing and promotion.  It was time for me to be a songwriter.  I’m still very hands-on and I have to approve everything that goes on.  Nothing can happen without my approval.  Now, I finally have time… time for songwriting, time to relax.  It was just perfect timing for me.



What can we expect from your first headlining tour starting next month?



I think it’s going to be a 40% to 50% rock show.  I’m not going to bring a band on stage for that long and then bum everyone out by playing slow stuff.  I want the audience to have a complete experience.  It won’t be just hard-driving rock or just acoustic weepy stuff.  It’s going to be good.







What was your first concert?

Huey Lewis and The News in Nashville, TN.  It was amazing and I loved every second of it.



What's your favorite album cover art?


Foreigner Double Vision.  It was the first album I ever bought and when I think of cover art, that’s still what I think of.  Well, that was the first one I saw, so maybe that isn’t fair…. That and Sesame Street Fever


What book or author has most influenced you?

I was a big (Vladmir) Nabokov guy when I was in college.  I studied with this professor who wrote the annotated Lolita, so I got to go very in-depth.  He interviewed Nabokov for the annotation and I got to see how rich every single word was.  And I loved that it was a really American story and it was really fucked up, but I laughed my ass off. 



What was your favorite childhood toy?

Han Solo action figure.  They made it with a little head and then remade it when the movie got really popular and his head got bigger.  They put a giant pompadour on him.  But I had the original, small head one. 



What would be the title to the movie of your life?

Still Standing and ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is going to be playing in the opening credits.



What is the worst advice you've ever received?

I met with a manager once who said that I needed to sign a record deal within 2 months or my career would be over.



When was the last time you partied like it was 1999?


New York, a week ago and it involved a light saber.



To find out more information about Cary Brothers visit his website at www.carybrothers.com.